Composed mentally on Friday, when I knew I’d be working from home this week. The atmosphere in London, such as I experienced it, was odd. It felt like the week just gone was a transitional week. Still a large amount of business as usual going into work, on high streets, on public transport etc. Trains and tubes beginning to drain out slightly. A few face masks. Becoming more aware of coughing – both yourself and others. By the end of the week though you sensed people preparing for a change the following week.
At work we’ve had very good scenario planning in place, with an isolation room and protective gear (face mask, gloves) if required. Our operational area got closed off, and for that final afternoon it was just three of us – the head of global operations, our finance guy and me. There was a strange feeling as I packed up all my stuff – we suggested opening a bottle of wine but in the end settled going for a valedictory pint in a deserted pub.
Victoria station much quieter than normal on that Friday. My housemate and I went to the local pub for what felt like might be the last time for a while. It was interesting to see that the pubs that day, and on Saturday, were rammed. Although it’s hard to judge the feeling I would not say it was one of bravura – though I did hear some Aussies saying they didn’t care if they got it (yes, that’s not the point) – more a mood of ‘this is the last time we’ll be together for a while’. As if we were going out before leaving a place that had kept us together – yes, that’s what it reminded me of: when I and the other teachers, after a year in Poland, went out drinking together for the final time.
I had been saying all week, that the mixture of early spring weather and the knowledge that I wouldn’t be going into work for a while made me feel demob happy. I felt it was slightly inaccurate to say that – after all work will continue. The phrase was more exact than I perhaps realised though, as the sense in the pub that Friday evening was of an army in a foreign land being demobilised. People with whom you had been thrown together unlikely to be seen again.*
This is perhaps over-dramatic. This will pass, and the huge majority of us will survive it, though probably not without knowing someone who is more closely affected. But I’m describing only the sense of things.
It is the uncertainty of the duration of this period that is unsettling. A recognition that we are entering a period, from which when we emerge, things will not be the same any more.
*(This feeling for me was only emphasised by a strong personal sense of the possibility of permanent parting from a deep love)